What do I believe? In short...

Sent in by Hells Bells

I was brought up as nominally Christian, attending a CofE infant school, with a brief spell at a Church of England (CofE) primary school before we moved to the “countryside” and the relatively secular state education system. My secondary school (an all-boys boarding school) was also CofE – one of those “peculiars” where the school had its own ordained chaplain and wasn’t considered part of any parish. I fell into evangelical Christianity when I was 13. Puberty was hitting, and I suppose I was confused by what was happening to me - wanting a female puberty to happen instead of the male one yet, as so often in my life, rationalising that desire out in terms of the practicalities should it actually happen. I was lonely, bullied, confused and I didn't fit into school. Reading the “Knowing God Personally” booklet made perfect sense with what I had been taught up to that point. If Jesus had the answers then he could sort me out, give me purpose. The conversion experience was real, emotional, and significantly changed my outlook on life.

However I soon realised that the charismatic group I had fallen into had extremely conservative views. The regular preaches against homosexuality made me realise that I couldn’t reveal my confusion – the people who I was recognising I would have to confide in should I want to be “healed” (because “sexual deviance needed to be healed”) would, undoubtedly, reject me given the attitudes they were displaying.

All the way through my teens and twenties, the emphasis was on learning more – learning how to be a good Christian by studying the Bible, praying and telling others. Sometimes it was easier than others. I found the personal interaction difficult. I guess I was fundamentally afraid that I was in some sort of cult, because, rationally, I couldn’t make much distinction between the church I was in and the cults I heard about. The Bible was deemed to be the sole arbiter of the Christian faith – leading to a fundamentalist outlook with contradictions that were simply swept under the carpet. The problems were mine – I was taught that if I only had enough faith, I would see God clearly.

Around the age of 30 I met then married my wife. I wanted to do the “right thing” spiritually yet, despite having “experiences of God” (which were mainly powerful emotional responses, and usually on my own), my reluctance to commit to the church started to increase – there seemed something false about it. Nevertheless, as a couple, we were invited into leadership – something I was pleased about given the refusal of the church I attended throughout my twenties to even look at me that way, yet something I was concerned about because I wasn’t sure whether I could cope with it. And then, a few years later, my gender crisis hit.

That involved some serious soul-searching. I acknowledged that I had wanted to be female for as long as I could remember. I learned that it was not a choice, and that the only guaranteed “cure” was to transition, and that most people who did so lost everything – also understanding that lots of people came to a compromise that didn’t seem to fit with me. What did I want to do? My answer needed to be “right”. I mentally froze. It was hard. As part of coming to understand myself, I discovered that there were different ways of looking at Scripture and, as a result, started to ask myself questions about what I believed. Life after death was the first tenet to go, then I started questioning the structure and purpose of the church, then there were questions about the authenticity of the Bible – and once you get to that point you can question anything.

In the meantime the church leaders made it quite clear that they weren’t prepared to have the female me in their church. My wife needed support, and was keen to broaden their horizons. However, they weren’t so keen, and hid behind dubious theology. At the time when I was most vulnerable, losing my job and with my marriage at a very rocky stage, they rejected me – and that hurt very, very deeply indeed. The time, the money, the commitment, all counted for nothing because of inbuilt bigotry “dressed up in the bright robes of faith”. After 18 months of trying to confront those church leaders, my wife started going to another church. I initially tried to go with her, but my questions and untreated hurt meant that I was screaming inside – I couldn’t go. I didn’t want to be left out, but the stated message from the church leader was basically “while I don’t reject you, many here may question your identity” – I wasn’t to be accorded the respect of being a human being. Two years later, while the leadership still says it’s thinking about ways to challenge the church members, the hurt is too deep and is still being compounded by the church’s delay. In fact I simply want to walk away from it all – something that is simply not possible while my wife continues to attend the church small group as she seeks to address her own questions.

There has been much debate in the media between the theists and the atheists – Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins being the main protagonists in the atheist camp. Doing some research recently, there’s also a large amount of “ex-Christian” material on the internet. Where do I stand on all of this?

My brother recently lent me “The Blind Watchmaker” by Richard Dawkins, a book he wrote in the ‘80’s to explain evolution, and how it had to be the only mechanism by which life on this planet could have appeared. While his defense of evolution as a mechanism for the development (as opposed to the appearance) of life was convincing, I found the rest of the book seemed to depend upon assumptions – a number of “what if”s leading to “therefore”s. But it consolidated a basic problem for me – did I really accept evolution? This was one of those discrepancies swept under the carpet. The evidence was strong – far stronger than any creationist evidence supplied, and I had tacitly accepted the evidence for evolution for years. Accepting this then led to another question - why have homo sapiens, who have been on this planet for around 100,000 years, been singled out as special by a God who (presumably) created the planet some 4,000,000,000 years ago? This then predicates a requirement that humans are, in fact, special. Increasingly I find that all of the things attributed to humans to make them special (communication, abstract ideas, recording information, grief, fear of death, love) can all be seen within the animal kingdom to some degree. Indeed, my wife was reminded the other day of how monkeys behave while listening to our two children squabble.

The Bible presents a number of other problems. As a charismatic evangelical, I was taught that the Bible was inerrant – it was literally the Word of God – but there are any number of websites out there that carry a list of contradictions, both literal and philosophical. To be honest, I find the tone of some of them a bit harsh, and some seem to rely on an overly literal approach to the Bible themselves. But there are some basic contradictions – for example is God a god of love, in which case how can He condone the evil (genocide, rape, murder, deceit) that was done in His name and, apparently in lots of cases, with His specific blessing? (Someone has reported the number of deaths in the Bible attributed to God [excluding the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and numerous plagues, etc] – 2,270,365; the number attributed to Satan – 10, and he had to ask God's permission for some of those!)

Digging into the history of how the Bible came to be in its current state, it becomes apparent that committees of men (and it is usually men rather than women) have had a large part to play. Books were included or excluded based upon a variety of criteria, which seemed to change over time and were sometimes (usually) politically based. Even the contents of the books were changed, sometimes to overcome the internal contradictions that had been found, other times to overcome the contradictions between the Bible and church teaching. Indeed, there are four canonical versions of the Bible, depending upon which major branch of the church you belong to. They can’t all be inerrant, can they? The Greek and Hebrew writings had no punctuation (and sometimes no spaces between words) – and that also leads to some interesting theological debates. For example, the English translation of Jesus’ statement on the cross “I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise” has a comma which is placed differently by Protestants and Catholics, largely to support their different views of heaven.

It has seemed to me for some time that Christianity stands or falls predominantly upon the veracity of the Bible. As someone said to my wife the other day, it all depends whether you believe that the Bible is the Word of God or not. There is precious little proof of the basic tenets behind Christianity without it – indeed the contradictions in the Bible over these basic tenets (for example: the resurrection; the existence of hell; the means of salvation) would seem to make it difficult to create a case for those basic tenets even using the Bible as support.

I find that arguments that Christians have used to defend their faith are generally one-sided. For example, the argument that the world would be a worse place without Christianity (or, indeed, any religion) is made as a blanket statement, and then supported by the church’s backing for causes such as the abolition of slavery. However, the ugly truth is that, in the specific instance of slavery, the church was very divided over the issue, and only really came alongside Wilberforce towards the very end of the campaign. Causes such as the denial of rights to women and homosexual people (not to mention the confused yet often derisory message given to trans people) are just ignored, yet those are issues that the church is still extremely divided on, while society as a whole has largely resolved its moral position. There appears to be a Christian assumption that, because the church tied itself to some campaigns which are viewed as morally good, we should ignore the church’s attachment to campaigns that most people find morally repugnant. Of course, moral campaigns have been waged by atheists as well, but that counter-argument seems never to be applied.

Questioners are often met with responses about having to deal with the pain in their lives, or an assertion that they couldn’t have truly “been saved”. The questions, which are actually independent from my existence, are addressed at best with non-answers such as “the Lord knows best” or “His ways are not our ways”. I’ve been discussing these issues with another friend for some time. She doesn’t really know the depths of my Christian history, but she is convinced of the reality of God, even though she is far from convinced about His revelation through the church. She lent me a book which gave her some answers. I was disappointed. Rather than answering the questions, the author usually tried to rephrase them in such a way that stock Christian answers (such as those above) could be given. To be honest, it was pretty much the approach I had given to others in my 25 years in the church. The patronising message is “you don’t really understand what you’re asking”.

Sure, questions about the Bible can be (and are sometimes) met with a liberal Christian understanding that it’s not inerrant or literal, but only tries to describe God in certain ways, or is a product of its times. Additionally research shows that “our brains tend to register frequently heard facts as true, even if they are patently false. As a result, our memories and beliefs are highly malleable and unreliable.” But then we seem to be getting dangerously close to the viewpoint that people essentially make up what they believe, and support it with selective quotations from whatever source – a pick’n’mix faith so derided by evangelicals.

People can, and do, divorce the church from Christianity. A frequent response seems to be (and I remember saying this many times myself) “I don’t have religion, I have faith” and “it’s all about relationships”. The main issue when discussing church is that it means at least three different things – your own set of relationships, a local congregation and the “church universal”. Criticisms of, say, the “church universal” are frequently met with objections that, say, the local group doesn’t do that. Yet Christians are often keen to see themselves as part of a global movement, and hope for unity.

I, and most scientists, freely admit that science also does not have all the answers. It can’t (yet) for example, explain many of the “why” questions – what makes something alive in the first place; what started the universe off to begin with? Indeed, you can argue (and I have) that scientists can also have faith that rationality can explain everything. But science over the last 200 years has pushed forward our understanding of the cosmos at such a rate that Christians (and those of other faiths) are often left reeling at the consequences of the discoveries. I think it’s primarily because of that that the Christian church (and other fundamentalist organisations) are often nay-sayers and conservative in their outlooks – the pace of change can be too much to handle, and the destruction of certainties once taken for granted is too painful.

And that brings me back to pain. Leaving a church group is painful as the relationships you have built up are severed or slowly wither away. Leaving a faith can be equally traumatic. Christianity (and other faiths) purport to give a purpose and meaning to life. Removing those beliefs can leave you feeling groundless, and depression can be a short-term result. The more fundamentalist your community, the less self-esteem you generally have. Walking away from the comfort of the group often means that the person with low self-esteem struggles to establish him- or herself in a new environment. When your life partner continues it the church environment, it somehow seems to make the pain even more personal. Additionally evangelical Christians often take it as their personal mission to bring the new unbeliever back into the fold, usually without understanding what has underpinned the change – preferring instead to personalise the decision or working on the fear of judgment which often still remains. The assumption seems to be that if you’re not a Christian then you must be some kind of immoral beast without any ability to discern right from wrong. Moving away from Christianity must be some kind of delusion. The pressure can be immense.

So, what do I believe? In short, I don’t know. There are “coincidences” that are difficult to explain rationally without recourse to some sort of “spiritual world”, but it is just possible that these could just be statistical anomalies. Just because there’s around a one in a half trillion (500,000,000,000) chance that you could throw 15 sixes in a row doesn’t mean that it can’t happen – it certainly doesn’t mean that God was behind that unlikely event. It’s impossible to prove the absence of something – therefore it’s impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist. But I have reached a point where I can say that I don’t believe in the “Christian God” any more – although I wouldn’t say that a “creator god” doesn’t exist. I strongly suspect that man made God rather than the other way round.

Having said that, the ingrained habits of 30 years are hard to break. In the middle of September 2007, I found myself at the start of what promised to be a stressful day at a new customer site, and my natural reaction was to pray. I then asked myself, “who to” and “what was the expected result”. There is comfort in old behaviour patterns – but comfort doesn’t make it right (another message from my evangelical youth!).

One of my cousins recently asked me why I believed the Christian message so strongly for so long, yet now see all the flaws in it. I think it was because I was never taught to question, other than in controlled environments like science lessons at school. I had a poor self-image that ultimately meant that I didn’t trust myself to make decisions – I still find this hard, preferring to leave options open at almost any cost. I believed that others knew much more than I, and I wanted to seek that knowledge. I didn’t let myself think that the Bible may not be true, because those who presented that argument were perceived as threats to my faith, and therefore my salvation. The questioning started slowly when trying to address my gender issues, around six years ago, and would probably have stopped if the church I was in had accepted me.

Someone has written very succinctly what I feel about my Christian faith: “Time and time again I am struck by a couple of things: the enormous number of errors and inconsistencies of the Bible; the process by which the Bible was put together; the blood-thirsty nature of 'God' in the OT particularly, and the seemingly impossible, variable and problematic requirements for God's steadfast love in the NT. When I read the Bible, I feel fear and terror, not love and comfort. I feel rejection and threats of eternal abandonment -- not unshakable, unbreakable, unconditional love. I feel the imminent strike of God's mighty and furiously imposed hand against my mere mortal and fleshly face at the slightest indiscretion, not the guiding, loving, patient and persistent support and immeasurable love of a father - a real father.

And yet, somewhere in my heart, I still want to believe. I want to believe that God really is there, that God himself is saying: ‘I agree with you. They get me so wrong! I am the one you can depend on. I am everything and so much more.’ But that would just be making God in my own image wouldn't it? And that, I remember, is a big no-no. God is the same today, yesterday and forever ..., which hauntingly means that God (at least when referencing the OT) may still be liable to bouts of terrifying anger, rage, jealousy, vengeance, murder, rape, genocide and infanticide (just to name a few).”

It’s just that the bit of my heart that wants to believe is getting smaller every day (as I recognise that it actually wants to believe because of the fear of what might happen if I declare unbelief), but like the knowledge of my male past, I don’t think it will ever disappear.

24 comments:

AtheistToothFairy said...

Hells Bells wrote:
For example, the English translation of Jesus’ statement on the cross “I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise” has a comma which is placed differently by Protestants and Catholics, largely to support their different views of heaven.
-----
HB,

Let me first say that you write well (not to mention lengthy..haha)


Back in my xtian quest days of my life, this verse was one of great contention between various xtian sects I was investigating.
As you pointed out, one simple comma changes the implications of what jesus said.

Putting the comma before "today", would plainly mean one was going to heaven TODAY and not some time in the future.
Putting the comma after "today" would then leave the time one goes to heaven, open ended as to when that would actually occur.

Now just like we have so many clever ways to twist scripture to meet one's own dogma, it's obvious we can play that game here as well.

However, unless people in those days spoke as if they were on stage, acting for an audience in some play; then the normal flow of such a statement, would surely not having jesus saying "I TELL YOU TODAY", as if it was necessary to inform the recipient of these words, that he was speaking from TODAY in the time-line, and not some other day.

Unless you were speaking to an audience, would you ever say to someone..."I tell you TODAY"?
No, it certainly makes far more sense that if jesus was speaking one-on-one, or even one-on-two, that he would have said "I tell you, TODAY you" etc..

Frankly, whichever is right, it was all a story of fiction thus there is no heaven, not today or tomorrow or in the foreseeable future.


>>God is the same today, yesterday and forever ..., which hauntingly means that God (at least when referencing the OT) may still be liable to bouts of terrifying anger, rage, jealousy, vengeance, murder, rape, genocide and infanticide (just to name a few).”

Your thought here is one that I had a very long time ago to.

I recall searching high and low for something in the NT where god made a promise that he would never act like he did in the OT, but alas, I never found any such promise from him.
Not that a promise can't be broken, but he doesn't even attempt to console us with such a promise about his cruel behavior.

Then we have the problem that he claims to never change, which means either he lied and did change, or that god and jesus are not in agreement with how to handle things.
Perhaps this caused god and jesus to have a huge battle up in heaven.
Jesus lost the battle, so he got to be the one to be made into a suffering human.
So basically, xtians are putting their faith in the LOSER of this heavenly battle, which also means that daddy god gets the final say-so in matters of us, and so we are sure to see that OT god stomp his big feet again in the future.

All kidding aside though, this argument about god never changing, was one I used to TRY and show my xtian wife that the bible's claim about god, has to be a lie, as jesus and god are clearly not on the same 'page' of behavior.

Doesn't that all give you the warm fuzzy feelings you always wanted from a god, huh xtians?
Whatever love you THINK this jesus will treat you with, could easily be countered by his big daddy taking command again.


>>But I have reached a point where I can say that I don’t believe in the “Christian God” any more – although I wouldn’t say that a “creator god” doesn’t exist. I strongly suspect that man made God rather than the other way round.

Your suspicions that man made god certainly have more possibilities, than the reverse.
As some are fond of saying, atheist just believe in one LESS god than a xtian does.
So what does this mean about ALL the MANY gods that man himself has created throughout human history.
Should we believe that all of them were only man-made, but this ONE xtian god was the exception to that ever repeating tendency of humans to create personal gods.

If the evidence found that some super advanced ancient aliens were responsible for finding a means to create a self-contained universe, I could swallow that idea far easier than I could for a creator god that is attributed to have created ALL universe(s) and ALL of infinite space.
Ah, but the attributes about a creator god don't really end here, as most would give that god additional attributes that 'it' has been around forever, wasn't created itself, and has infinite power and knowledge.
Then one has to ask, what benefit is such a god if that god is hiding itself from us and just watching from afar at our trial and error existence.

Would such a remote god offer us eternal life, but not actually inform of this fact?

Should we live out our lives hoping that there is such a god who is giving us an eternal life.
If we assume the next life is eternal bliss, from whatever god would provide it, doesn't that again put us back in the boat of not caring as much about our earthly lives (and that of our future descendants).
If this remote god existed, and does in fact offer this eternal life without question, then what would the purpose be of our present human existence on this earth?
Why would such a god hand out such a benefit without us having to earn it, and yet have created us as human flesh FIRST.

It's a nice thought to think we all have some creator god at our backs, but I see too many inherent problems with forming such a concept into something that sounds practical-minded.


Okay folks, I'm quite SURE some of you can add to my thoughts, so let's do so, OoooooKAY?


ATF (Who is still waiting for ANY 'god' to make verifiable contact with us earthlings)

Anonymous said...

Hells Bells,

I see de-conversion as the ongoing maturity process of a person who has decided to think for him/herself. As a process, then, de-conversion has no end and the person who experiences it is bound to continually chance his/her set of beliefs.

In the last seven years your position toward Christianity has changed a lot, and it will continue to do so.

In my particular case, I started questioning Christianity and then moved on to question just about everything else I believed, religious or not.

It would be interesting to know how you are doing, say, a year from now. I bet your beliefs will be slightly different by then.

Good luck!

Ryan Scott said...

"Just because there’s around a one in a half trillion (500,000,000,000) chance that you could throw 15 sixes in a row doesn’t mean that it can’t happen – it certainly doesn’t mean that God was behind that unlikely event."

An interesting way to think about this: Although there's a one in a half trillion chance you'll throw 15 sixes in a row, there's also a one in a half trillion chance you'd have gotten the exact combination you get when you actually throw a die 15 times. You have the exact same chance of getting a particular (though random-looking) sequence as you do getting 15 6's! If you think about it its no more 'miraculous' than throwing 3,4,1,5,2,3,2,1,4,3,4,3,5,3

Hells Bells said...

Hi ATF

"God is the same today, yesterday and forever ..., which hauntingly means that God (at least when referencing the OT) may still be liable to bouts of terrifying anger, rage, jealousy, vengeance, murder, rape, genocide and infanticide (just to name a few)."

Just to reiterate - it's not my original thought - it's something I read here recently which rang a very large bell.

And apologies for writing such a long piece - originally it was written for a small spirituality group I am/was a member of, but at 5 A4 pages, I thought it was too long for them to want to publish - although they would probably do so.

Also, I'm aware that I'm very much writing out my anger, frustration, fears and other feelings. It's a similar approach to the one I used at the start of my "transition" from the male role to the female one in 2003/04. Women are supposed to be wordy - right?

I like your idea about "how come the Christian god has been the only one not created by man?"

Helen

Mandy said...

Hi Helen,

After reading your story, I felt the need to let you know that I can relate to you in many ways.

Out of the fear of possibly getting shunned, I have never made this known on here publicly until now. I am also Transgendered, so I understand a lot of what you are talking about when it comes to dealing with evangelical christians and being TG both.


HB Wrote: "Additionally evangelical Christians often take it as their personal mission to bring the new unbeliever back into the fold, usually without understanding what has underpinned the change – preferring instead to personalise the decision or working on the fear of judgment which often still remains. The assumption seems to be that if you’re not a Christian then you must be some kind of immoral beast without any ability to discern right from wrong. Moving away from Christianity must be some kind of delusion. The pressure can be immense"

I know exactly what you mean. Although I have been out of church for a few years now there were still a few christians who I stayed in touch with, due to the fact that outside of their belief system, I still valued my friendship with them even if I no longer agreed with their beliefs.

There was one christian friend of mine, who I felt I could confide in when I told him about my plans to transition from male to female. I knew he would not agree with my decision, however he had always been a very easy going guy, and I felt that I could at least get him to meet me halfway and understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. Of course, he did not understand or agree with what I was doing, and I was foolish for thinking he would.

He was very gentle with me overall, however he wanted to start meeting with me for bible studies on Thursday every week. He told me that we would not discuss the subject of me being TG. He went on to tell me that the purpose of meeting with him once a week for bible study was just to get me back into a relationship with Jesus, because I had left the fold back in 2004. He said he was more concerned with me leaving the fold than he was with me transitioning.

I agreed to meet with my christian friend, however, our meetings only lasted for 2 weeks. He basically took me through a few verses in the book of Romans, and I honestly found myself wanting to debate him, and point out all of the contradictions of the bible. He found that I was no longer teachable when it came to embracing christianity.

Every time I tried to debate him, he always told me, "Let's get back on the subject of what we were talking about, open your bible to......".

I don't know why he thought sharing scripture with me that I already knew would make a difference. I guess he expected God to use his holy spirit to convict and convince me that I was wrong for what I was doing.

I told him this was nothing new and I was not phased by biblical scripture. He told me that he didn't think I have ever gotten the correct information about the love of Jesus. He thought that I had been under the teachings of pure legalism instead, and he wanted me to focus more on the love of Jesus.

Finally after our 2nd week of meeting with each other, I questioned his real motive for wanting to have bible study with me. He confirmed what I had believed to be his motive all along.

He told me that he was hoping that by sharing some biblical truth with me that I would realize that I don't need to transition to feel more complete as an individual, and that I would finally realize that my identity in Christ was all that mattered, and that would be enough. His attempt at trying to do so failed. I called him out on it, and I finally told him exactly what I thought about christianity. That is when he started changing his tune with me.

He never got really hateful or nasty, however he told me that I was getting ready to mutilate my body and damage God's temple. He then started the typical scare tactics of how there were going to be consequences for what I was about to do. I finally got angry and flew into him, and told him some things that he did not want to hear about his faith.

He then told me that it looked like I was too far gone from his world, and there was nothing else he could do to help me, so we parted ways after that. He finally told me that he could no longer be a part of my world because of the road I had chosen to go down. He said his heart ached for me.

That's when I told my christian friend that my heart ached for someone like him, because his belief system causes nothing but division and hurt among people. I told him that it is sad that he allows his faulty faith to alienate others.

I also told him that he was the one who was living in bondage, because he was enslaved to a faulty belief system, and that he needed to learn to accept people regardless of what they believed. I then told him that his so called truths that he wanted to share with me were not strong enough to stand up against the new information that I had obtained in regards to the contradictions and problems with the bible, and if he was relying on the bible to back up his claim, then he was fighting a losing battle. I then went on to tell him that he did not stand a chance in bringing me back to the fold by relying on the bible and the same old worn out recycled information, nor would he be able to stop my transition. In a nutshell, I told him that he had failed in trying to do doing so.

He didn't even try to understand or educate himself on the subject of being TG. Instead he tried to educate me with his one sided point of view, and he dismissed all other points that I was trying to make to him about people who are transgendered. He told me that he thought I was confused.

One statement that I do remember my christian friend saying that did kind of shock me was this:

"Maybe I am wrong, who knows? However, I choose to stand on my faith in Jesus Christ, and I will continue to stand on my faith even if what I believe is not true".

Just hearing this man of God admit that he might be wrong, was not something I expected to hear from him. I think I probably caused him to have some seeds of doubt to be honest.

This same person has a huge role in his church and is also a deacon. I would hate to imagine what other christians and members of his flock would say if they had heard my friend admit that maybe he is wrong about what he believes.

In closing, I understand what you are going through Helen in regards to struggling with the christian faith and being TG both. I want you to know that you are not alone.

Mandy xooxoxo

jim earl said...

ATF writes:

>>God is the same today, yesterday and forever ..., which hauntingly means that God (at least when referencing the OT) may still be liable to bouts of terrifying anger, rage, jealousy, vengeance, murder, rape, genocide and infanticide (just to name a few).”


My view on this is as follows:

Gods are nonexistant. They will remain that was today, yesterday, and forever!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Jim Earl

Hells Bells said...

Hi Mandy,

It's cruel, isn't it, the way that people of faith just shun you when you don't fit any more. Basically my whole social circle revolved around church and work. Kicking me out of it more-or-less destroyed my social life at a time when I simply didn't have the energy to create a new one.

You wrote: "He never got really hateful or nasty, however he told me that I was getting ready to mutilate my body and damage God's temple." Yet, improbably, "mutilating one's body" is fine when it comes to other "elective" surgeries - such as breast enlargement which at least two women in the church group that I led had.

You wrote: "He didn't even try to understand or educate himself on the subject of being TG. Instead he tried to educate me with his one sided point of view, and he dismissed all other points that I was trying to make to him about people who are transgendered. He told me that he thought I was confused."

Which is exactly what the first church leader I referred to did. He was a research chemist, yet absolutely refused to read any evidence that I presented for transsexualism. I was simply expected to swallow his world-view whole. No doubt his refusal to do any real research was why he was, at that time, working as a project manager for a mobile phone company.

You wrote: "One statement that I do remember my christian friend saying that did kind of shock me was this:
'Maybe I am wrong, who knows? However, I choose to stand on my faith in Jesus Christ, and I will continue to stand on my faith even if what I believe is not true'."

And I've heard that a few times too. At that point I walk away - they seem absolutely oblivious to the fact that they have just ruled out reason. I don't conform to their world-view so, somehow, I must be wrong. What arrogance.

In fact, I think that arrogance is the only thing that does distinguish us from other animals - the arrogance to think that we actually matter so much that the creator of the whole universe should be intricately involved in our lives. One of the last comments I made to the small group I attended with my wife was that I found that the only thing that distinguished Christians from non-Christians was arrogance - it went down like a lead balloon. They simply didn't understand!

Anyway, if you want to email me, my address is hilarymortimer@hotmail.com.

Helen

AtheistToothFairy said...

jim earl wrote:
Gods are nonexistant. They will remain that was today, yesterday, and forever!
That's my story and I'm sticking to it

---
Actually Jim, what you quoted wasn't my words, but your point is valid regardless.

While you and I know god's are nonexistant, sometimes 'we' enjoy visting the Matrix type created xtian world, just to 'bend all their spoons'.


ATF (Who wonders how xtians eat with bent spoons)

Cousin Ricky said...

Hells Bells wrote: “One of the last comments I made to the small group I attended with my wife was that I found that the only thing that distinguished Christians from non-Christians was arrogance - it went down like a lead balloon. They simply didn't understand!”

Of course they didn’t understand. They’re the ones that think that we’re arrogant for thinking that we’re “better than God,” or that we “know everything,” or some other straw man they throw up to protect themselves from our doubts. As Christians do so remarkably consistently, they project their own faults onto others.

Little Lulu said...

Here's my comment on Chrisitian religion.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, how would you know God?

Would it be in times of disaster? When a hurricane is howling down on you? When bugs take over your food?

Would you see the sheer beauty of the ocean, trees, sand, etc and think of God? Would he be responsible for the beauty of your island? The devil would get be the bearer of all things bad?

Without the Bible, how do any of us know God? Maybe it's something personal. Maybe you are taught to be scared and ask no questions. Either way, I have a feeling, this doesn't come from a book that's been past down over the years. Your family shapes your first view of religion. Many of us are scared to say and seek out the truth. Over time, we just go with it.

I am still trying to figure out my religious path. And I have a very hard time seeing past all the people the Bible has and will hurt. If it was written by man but inspired by God, I think we all got duped.

It's just too easy to "accidentally" write down the wrong verse or embelish the meaning of something. And let's not forget, everyone has there own interpretation of a conversation, event, or even a word!

I am getting more comfortable with the idea that we don't know and may never know, even after we die. We just might not be able to understand the answers. Or maybe life is that simple, we are born to live and die. I can see where we can overlook this simple explanation.

mandy said...

Hi Helen,

Yes, it is cruel the way a lot of christians treat people who are different. I'm so sorry to hear what all you had to go through. My heart truly aches for you.

Helen Wrote: " Yet, improbably, "mutilating one's body" is fine when it comes to other "elective" surgeries - such as breast enlargement which at least two women in the church group that I led had"

You are exactly right. A lot of christians love to point fingers when it suits them.

I too have witnessed and dealt with typical christian arrogance on many occasions.

I will be more than happy to email you.

Mandy xoxoxoxo

Trans-man said...

Hi Helen and Mandy,

I transitioned 3 years ago (female to male) and was at the time member of a church and relatively active with music and the men's group. I was dating a transgender lady at the time, and when it became known to the church that we were both transgender, I received calls from the pastors. They told me I could never date a woman, because that would be homosexual. I asked if I should date a man, but they said I couldn't do that either, because it would be homosexual. So I said that dating someone transgendered also, would HAVE to make us the perfect straight couple, LOL. But no, I was told that THAT was homosexual also.
When they called again, they demanded that we both bring our medical records for publication at the church, so they could decide about our membership. I politely declined. I received one more call, offering me to keep my membership at the church, under the condition that I break up with my girlfriend and go "date a normal woman." (I thought that was homosexual, and why is it okay for me to be TG and not for her?)
I told them that this is Texas and there's a church on every corner.
I did go for a few weeks to a more accepting church, but doubt had already set in a while before that, and I became an atheist.

Sean

Mandy :) said...

Trans-man Wrote:

"They told me I could never date a woman, because that would be homosexual. I asked if I should date a man, but they said I couldn't do that either, because it would be homosexual. So I said that dating someone transgendered also, would HAVE to make us the perfect straight couple, LOL. But no, I was told that THAT was homosexual also.

Hi Sean!

I swear a lot of these people in these churches are such retards. I now see them for the bullies that they are.

I have seen many of your posts before, and I have wondered by your name if you might had been Transgendered also. Sorry to hear about your troubles also.



Trans-man wrote:

"When they called again, they demanded that we both bring our medical records for publication at the church, so they could decide about our membership. I politely declined."

Good for you Sean! I don't blame you for declining. Your health records are none of anyone's business. That's what pisses me off so bad at these churches and a lot of these christians. They think they have a right to go around sticking their noses in everyone's private affairs.

It would tickle me pink to see some type of law passed against that kind of stuff.

Nice hearing from you!

Mandy oxoxoxox :)

Enjjpt said...

I nearly got kicked out of a church I was very involved in back in my xtian days over the "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" line.

I have (unfortunately) a large cross tattoo on my shoulder which I thought was cool at the time. The church was having a baptism and pool-party at a local water park on a sunday afternoon. The music ministers wife saw my tattoo and took offense and started in on how I had defiled the temple of the spirit.

Well, this lady was to put it kindly, a fat slob. Big t-shirt over the bathing suit, thighs touching all the way to the knees, 2 chins fat. I was in the Marines at the time, so aside from the ink in my arm, I was lean and mean. I just looked at her politely and when she had finished I asked, "Does your temple of the holy spirit happen to be located next to a fast food drive through? I can see you really honor your temple by the way you take care of your body."

She was dumbfounded and there where some chuckles from others who overheard the conversation. She left in a huff, as only obese women and do, and went straight to her husband and the pastor. They came over and told me I was rude and insensitive to her and demanded an apology. I said I was just pointing out the hypocritical nature of her argument, then they told me either to apologize or leave now. My wife insisted I say sorry and leave it be, so I did.

If I had it to do all over, I would have made a big deal over this whole thing and really embarassed that pig of a woman in front of all those people. It wasnt her weight that made her ugly.

Sweet Freedom said...

Hi and welcome Helen. I was wondering if you knew of some site I could go to to understand transgendered better. I afraid I am ignorant on the matter and would really like to understand better.

whateverlolawants said...

I found all of this really interesting. It's sad but funny to me how the church tries to "understand" transgendered individuals. From the stories I've heard, it seems they either try to deny such folks exist at all ("they're wrong, they're confused") or they work themselves into a silly web, trying to fit transfolk into their narrow worldview ("that's homosexual!" "well, maybe a look at your medical records would clear things up!") It sure would be nice if they could get their head around the reality that transgendered people EXIST.

Hells Bells said...

Sweet Freedom: I'd like to find a site that explains it brilliantly. However, there are some which cast some light on the condition:
Lynn Conway is a good one for personal stories and some research -
http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/conway.html.

In the UK we have an organisation called GIRES which does try to educate folk. I've met and liked Terry and Bernard who run the organisation - they have a trans daughter which was how they got involved - www.gires.org.uk.
Also, and I hesitate to do this, I'm happy to describe and explain as best I can my own story through email - here is not the place!

The problem with trying to explain it is it's basically trying to explain you - and if you've ever tried that, it's very hard to do! As an example, I can't imagine anyone not being transgendered - although I know that there are - simply because my experience has been completely coloured by being so. I simply know I never fit the "boy" mould - I can remember standing at the side of the playground when I was 5 wondering why charging around and bashing into things (and people) was supposed to be fun. I had to learn how to be a boy in order to fit in - my natural instincts seemed always to be feminine. I struggled along until I mentally collapsed at the age of 39 - avoiding two earlier instances where I was very close to collapse.

Basically, science has little idea what causes transsexualism either, although a small study seemed to indicate that transgendered people had a brain structure that corresponded to their "opposite" sex. Further studies are ongoing - the problem is that people need to be dead before you can dissect their brains.

Whatever: Absolutely. We have the Evangelical Alliance in the UK which published a book around 8 years ago which basically said just what you've said - TS people are simply there to deceive. To support their point of view they used outdated and discredited research from the 60s and 70s. I know that, as a direct result of that book, at least one TS person committed suicide.

However there are some churches that do seem to accept TS people - there are even a couple where TS folk are ministers - Erin Swenson is one in the US, and I know 2 in the UK. Such accepting churches do seem to be few and far between, however, and typically the more evangelical they are, the less acceptance there is.

Church people seem to think that transgendered people have a choice between transition and the status quo. Rarely is that the case - usually the status quo would lead to suicide - so really what the church is saying is "we would rather you killed yourself than be yourself". Quite an indictment when you think like that.

Ironically a lot of male-to-females get involved with religious groups at various stages pre-transition. We're vulnerable people, and religion purports to present answers and meaning into a very confused life. I do know quite a few folk who have maintained their Christian faith post-transition, but I have to say I think it usually changes quite a lot.

Helen

Cousin Ricky said...

whateverlolawants wrote: “It sure would be nice if they [the church] could get their head around the reality that transgendered people EXIST.”

Transgendered people were a substantial challenge to my faith. If God wants us to follow these narrow sexual rules, then why did he make people who are constitutionally unable to follow them?

The funny thing is that sexual issues such as homosexuality, transgender, prostitution, birth control, and pornography never really bothered me, but i felt that i had to hold reservations against them because my religion said so. I was taught by example to feel uncomfortable about homosexuality, even though my intellect could find little wrong with homosexuality, and absolutely nothing wrong with homosexual people. I wasn’t taught to feel uncomfortable about transgender, because people like Helen don’t exist. However, learning of their existence did become an existential challenge for me.

The only thing “wrong” i could find with homosexuality and transgendered sex was the lack of complementing gametes. But that requirement is itself a religious rule! (One thing my brainwashing managed to do is convince me that certain religious rules were laws of nature. As you may have noticed, religion often equivocates the senses of the word “law.”) Evolution does require us to have complementing gametes in order to propagate the species, but evolution is a process, not a set of rules, and therefore cannot be anti-gay or anti-transgender.

Hells Bells said...

Hi Ricky,

I'm going to be picky now - transgenderism or transsexualism (whichever term you prefer) is not really to do with sexuality in the way that homosexuality is. It's to do with identity - how you see yourself. Transsexual people can also be both homosexual and heterosexual - although it can get a little confusing when you come to apply those terms! Just a little chance to do some more education :)

But I agree with your point that Christians generally would prefer that homosexual and transgendered people could be classed as having some kind of aberration from which they could be healed, rather than just being a differently expressed part of humanity.

My experience was not that Christians assumed I didn't exist but rather than I was completely deluded - God had made these gender boundaries right at the very start, how could I even think of crossing a divide that God had made? Somewhat ironic given the Christian emphasis on the soul being distinct from the body.

Of course, they never had any answer for how hermaphrodites or people with unusual sets of "sex chromosomes" (eg. XXY or XO) fitted into this world view.

Helen

Trans-man said...

ello to all,

it is nice to see a discussion on transgeder and the church. I am a transgender activist today and an atheist also. I lecture at colleges and other public places,
If anyone has any questions about anything that has to do with transgender, feel free to write emails to Beemerguy2005@yahoo.com. I will try to answer your questions. I think it's always better to get first hand knowledge than assume or believe others' opinions.

Sean

Mandy said...

It is good to know that I was not the only one who is TG who had been posting on here. I am also glad to see how well we are being received so far.

Like I had mentioned previously, out of my fear of possibly getting shunned on here, I had never made it publicly known on this site that I was a M2F Tgirl until just recently.

It is true that a lot of people think that being Transgendered has to do with "Sexual Orientation", when it in fact has to do with, "Sexual Identity", (Identifying with the opposite gender).

A lot of christians fail to realize that being TG is a birth defect, and just like most other subjects, a lot of christians refuse to look beyond their own programming and do the research and educate themselves on the matter.

I don't know how many times I have heard how someone who is TG prayed that God would heal them, and it never happened.

Mandy

stronger now said...

"Caught up in a world of uphill climbin'
The tears are in my mind
And nothin' is rhyming, oh Mandy..."


I wish all men('cept me) would do the "M2F" thing. 'Course, I don't particularly like other men.

You go girl!

Insanezenmistress said...

quite an education.

i used to maintain that homosexaullity did not happen inthe natural world, but only with humans....i have been told i was wrong. But i had a thought about evolution and biology, Perhaps the increase in homosexaulity is a evolutional responce to our food resourses being depleted.

If every couple had only one baby, we would still be over populated.

As for TS/G no pre judgement from me, i have always wondered if i would be a handsome man. But hats the extent of thsoe feelings.
I propose a new catagory i wanna be Asexaul.....no complications.

Jessy

Hells Bells said...

Zen Mistress - homosexuality is found in almost all animal species. Basically males will "hump" almost anything - females, other males, trees, ... Lesbianism is also recorded amongst lots of animals. Transsexualism requires a sense of gender, and that can be difficult to separate from sexual behaviour when observing animals. However I would be surprised if it didn't occur to some degree. The notion that homosexuality is not "normal" is, therefore, completely betrayed by the animal kingdom - there's hardly anything "more normal"!

You do get asexual people too - it is defined as those who express no attraction to others.

As for over-population, actually I'm not sure that is true. I understood that the Earth has more than enough space to grow crops to feed every human being and then some. It's a problem of distribution and power.

Helen

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